Sam's Take: Three great films for summer viewing – RNZ

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By Sam Rillstone
Review – Sam’s Take returns for the year with Sam recapping a few of his favourites from his summer viewing – Glass Onion, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and The Banshees of Inisherin.
Directed by Rian Johnson, the film is a standalone sequel to 2019’s Knives Out, with Daniel Craig reprising his role as master detective Benoit Blanc taking on a new case revolving around tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) and his closest friends.
The ensemble cast also includes Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista. Everyone is just a perpetually online jerk who thinks higher of themselves.
Miles is the amalgamation of every pretentious billionaire you can think of. Norton plays him well but he’s contending with an entire cast of scene chewers.
A big stand-out was Kate Hudson as Birdie, who is a pop of colour both figuratively and literally in every scene she’s in, and clearly having the time of her life.
And of course Craig as Benoit Blanc is fun and complex. Yes he’s just a simple detective on the face of it but there’s reasons for why he is this way, like all great deductive minds: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Batman! Again you can see Craig is having a blast, free from the commitments of 007.
The first half hour or so is a little odd at times but taken in the grand scheme of the film makes sense even if it is a bit tedious.
Storywise it’s similar to the first film, with a lot of subversion of expectations. As the title suggests, there’s abundant layers to the film in an intelligent, essentially airtight story.
It’s the complex relationships between the characters that makes the story reliant on them so rich.
There’s also shades of the themes from the first film with characters of a certain social standing garnering victory over others.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson, it’s a reimagining of the classic novel by Carlo Collodi, featuring Gregory Mann as the titular wooden puppet making his way through the world guided by his father Geppetto (David Bradley) and insect conscience Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor), set to the backdrop of WWII Italy.
It immediately strikes you that everything you see is miniatures and handcrafted stop-motion animation. Each movement is intentional and exactly how it’s supposed to be with a handmade charm.
Mann as Pinocchio is so expressive and pure. He charmingly encapsulates the naive glee of the wooden boy while also giving him so much life in dramatic moments. Beautiful singing voice too.
There wasn’t as much of Sebastian J. Cricket as I’d like. McGregor has so much expression and emotion in his performance for what I thought was an interesting portrayal of the character. He almost reluctantly and begrudgingly accepts the role of Pinocchio’s guide, which is a departure from what many will see when thinking of the character. But it’s fun and gives the character a bit more agency and tension in the story.
I will say it’s a bit of a slow burn, and also very grim which is known from the outset. Like the well-known Disney version, the film highlights the joy of curiosity, but further, the heartbreak of trying to live up to the expectations of someone who is grieving, all seen through the fantastical lens of del Toro’s style.
It’s a story about a boy learning about loss and cherishing loved ones.
The setting of fascist Italy is in the background for the first half, but soon comes to the forefront in a really great scene. There’s a juxtaposition of the glee of children playing and war games which has the impact of two ends of the spectrum of the human experience colliding.
Directed by Martin McDonagh, the film follows Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), two lifelong friends on the Irish island of Inisherin who find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship.
Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan also star as Pádraic’s sister Siobhan and troubled local boy Dominic respectively.
It’s such a simple premise but so engaging. One friend decides they don’t like the other any more and stops talking to them. And it’s all believable as well – you can see how the different moments escalate from one another which is a credit to the writing and performance of these characters.
I also thought it brought up interesting ideas about human behaviour and etiquette in relationships. What’s said and isn’t, how we deem certain choices to be rude or hurtful.
Farrell’s Padraic is so charming and naive. Very child-like without being dumb if that makes sense. Farrell plays the character so intelligently in such a way that you can always tell what he is thinking even when just staring sadly at his donkey Jenny.
Gleeson’s Colm has this calculated calmness about him. He and Farrell bounce off of each other wonderfully, the erraticism of Pádraic and the stillness of Colm creating a tension which draws you in.
Keoghan as Dominic is once again making immensely deliberate and calculated choices in his performance. I found the character heartbreaking which I imagine is the point of him, and Keoghan is as always giving it 100 percent.
The film is very performance driven. Like a theatre play it focuses on a small set of distinct characters and deals with a seemingly low-stakes situation. But it’s the relationships between these characters which make the story rich. I could see McDonagh’s history as a playwright, seeing how each scene and setting would play out on a stage.
Copyright © 2023, Radio New Zealand
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